Australia's last F1 World Champion Alan Jones has given Mark Webber a timely vote of confidence as the 2010 campaign speeds towards what looks set to be a thrilling dénouement
, contending that the current world championship leader has the mental strength necessary to overcome his four chief rivals and clinch the coveted crown.
With five races now left on the schedule – beginning with the upcoming Singapore Grand Prix this weekend – and a mere 24 points blanketing the title-chasing quintet, the situation has rarely been so tense.
In some senses, Webber is up against it, with three of his adversaries – all-British McLaren-Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso – having lifted the ultimate laurels before and therefore being in possession of vital experience of a title showdown, and a well-documented fractious relationship with his own Red Bull Racing team-mate Sebastian Vettel [see separate story – click here
However, should it come down to mind games between the RBR pairing, then 1980 world champion Jones knows who his money would be on – and he argues that provided his countryman is capable of keeping his cool and focussing purely on his own performance, he can see off his other three challengers to-boot.
“I think if it gets down to a bit of a head-game, I'll back Mark every time,” the 63-year-old told the Australian Associated Press
. “Mark's come up the hard way, he's been through some uncompetitive teams, he's had a few bits and pieces thrown at him where Vettel hasn't – and if gets down to mind games, I think Mark's much better to deal with it than Vettel is.
“I think the main thing is not to think about it (the championship) too much, not to dwell on it, not to put undue pressure on himself. He's just got to take each race as it comes along, and if he continues to do exactly what he's been doing, he won't have a problem. It's a fascinating championship. We haven't had a championship like this for years, where five people could become world champion with five races to go.”
One distinct positive for the New South Wales native, Jones adds, is the fact that the 34-year-old is still ensconced atop the points standings somewhat against-the-odds, given that the two most recent outings at Spa-Francorchamps and Monza were tipped as golden opportunities for McLaren and Ferrari to gain ground and make hay whilst Red Bull struggled. With the remaining venues conversely all expected to play to the strengths of the Adrian Newey-designed RB6, the former Williams star reckons Webber's confidence should be sky-high.
“I think they're very good,” he mused of his compatriot's prospects of victory in Singapore, a race the man from Queanbeyan has yet to finish in two previous starts. “His car is going to suit the circuit; in fact, I think his car is going to suit most of the circuits that they're going to. I think he'll obviously know he's going to circuits now that will suit his car and that won't disappoint him, that's for sure.”